Sports - Football - FA Cup 3rd round - Man Utd 1:0 Liverpool
Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish had no happy return after seeing his side concede a penalty within half a minute, fall behind within two minutes and then go down to ten men with skipper Steven Gerrard seeing red just past the half-hour mark, all adding up and leading to a 1-0 defeat against their bitter rivals and league leaders Manchester United to kick them out of the FA Cup in the third round leaving the Europa League as the only possibility for silverware this season.
It was King Kenny's first game as caretaker manager, replacing booman Roy Hodgson just a couple of days ago after his 6-month short stint, just over 20 years after his successful reign as Reds manager which included three league titles, two FA Cups and a 4-0 demolition of United which nearly cost Sir Alex Ferguson his job.
So, hopes were not high but better. But a couple of decades on, the men, the teams and the match drew a very different picture.
Dimitar Berbatov went down in the box late after the slightest of semi-tackle-touches by Daniel Agger with hardly half a minute on the clock. Ryan Giggs took the spot kick nice, strong and confident, into the right corner, shaving past a diving Pepe Reina, United could not have wished for a better start.
Liverpool took a bit to come to terms with the early setback but made some fine one-twos, creating some good interplay, Fernando Torres, Maxi Rodriguez and Gerrard coming close whilst United hardly showed up at the other end.
But then it all went from bad to worse for Liverpool: Stevie G. slid in with both feet on Michael Carrick and was given a straight red by World Cup final referee Howard Webb, after a little delay with all the players surrounding him in protest.
In contrast to the penalty, the replays confirmed and made this decision much more clear cut, the skipper had to go.
Down by a goal and a man, Liverpool seemed to get a grip whilst United took more of a step back or the foot off the gas rather than going forward and putting pressure on and taking advantage of the extra man, although they nearly doubled the advantage just before the break when Jonny Evans headed Giggs' corner off the post.
Liverpool showed some fine team work in the second half, Fabio Aurelio pulling a great save out of Tomasz Kuszczak diving and keeping out the strong free kick shot from the top right corner.
Reina didn't have much to do after the penalty, apart from a couple of crazy minutes in the second half when he brilliantly kept out shots by Rafael, Berbatov and Patrice Evra in quick succession.
Liverpool fought on well after that but never got close enough, not quite there. But they can take some encouragement from the second half performance, as at half time many would have predicted a reverse of the last time Dalglish faced and nearly smashed and crashed Ferguson 4-0.
It didn't come to that and now the Reds have to be strong as ever, with their skipper suspended for the next three games including none other than the Merseyside derby - see what Kenny boy can do... Come back from retirement and make a return on the pitch just as he has off it???
Man Utd: Kuszczak; Evra, Ferdinand, Rafael Da Silva, Evans (Smalling 84); Giggs, Carrick, Nani, Fletcher (booked 9, Anderson 62, booked 64); Berbatov, Hernandez (Owen 75).
Subs not used: Lindegaard, Fabio Da Silva, Gibson, Obertan.
Liverpool: Reina; Agger, Aurelio, Kelly, Skrtel; Raul Meireles (Shelvey 60), Gerrard (sent off 32), Maxi (Babel 60), Lucas; Torres (Ngog 77), Kuyt.
Subs not used: Gulacsi, Kyrgiakos, Wilson, Poulsen.
On target: 10-5
Free kicks: 7-11
Sky Sports stats:
On target: 9-4
Free kicks: 7-10
Passing Success: 84.1%-72.5%
Territorial Advantage: 39.9%-60.1
Referee: Howard Webb
Man of the match: Dimitar Berbatov